Hormones can heavily affect your health and wellbeing. Too much of certain hormones can lead to weight gain, reproductive issues and a general feeling of ill health.
Hormones can also play a role in the health of your hair. Male and female pattern baldness is connected to DHT, a hormone connected to testosterone. An over-abundance of estrogen can also trigger hair loss in some people. In other cases, hair loss can be due to a problem with the thyroid gland, a part of the endocrine system that produces thyroid hormones.
What Is the Thyroid?
The thyroid is a gland that’s shaped like a butterfly and is located on the neck. Directed by the pituitary gland, the thyroid produces several hormones, collectively called thyroid hormones, that play a big role in the functioning of your body. Thyroid hormones help regulate your metabolism, which determines how your body burns calories and thus how you lose or gain weight. The hormones also play a role in regulating your heart rate, while your thyroid helps regulate your digestive system, plays a part in keeping your skin and hair healthy, and plays a role in the functioning of your eyes and brain.
What Can Go Wrong?
Unfortunately, a number of things can go wrong with the thyroid. If the gland becomes enlarged, you can develop a goiter. People with a goiter might not have any symptoms, or they might notice that they have trouble swallowing, feel hoarse or have trouble breathing.
While one cause of a goiter is insufficient iodine, which the gland needs to function properly, in many cases the goiter is caused by another thyroid issue. Grave’s disease, a condition that makes the thyroid over-active — meaning it produces an excessive amount of hormones — can also cause a goiter, as can Hashimoto’s disease, a condition that makes the gland underactive.
Hashimoto’s disease is a type of autoimmune disorder, meaning the body’s immune system is attacking itself. It’s the most common cause of an underactive thyroid and commonly occurs in older women. Along with hair loss or thinning hair, an underactive thyroid can cause a range of symptoms, such as weight gain, puffiness in the face and an inability to tolerate the cold.
In some cases, an underactive thyroid gland, or hypothyroidism, occurs as a result of a treatment for an overactive gland. Grave’s disease, another type of autoimmune disorder, which also commonly occurs in older people, is just one cause of an overactive thyroid, also known as hyperthyroidism. It can also develop as a result of nodules or growths on the gland, of too much iodine, or of an infection.
The symptoms of an overactive gland are in many ways the opposite of the symptoms of an underactive gland. People with hyperthyroidism may feel too warm on a regular basis. They might lose a significant amount of weight and have a rapid pulse. An overactive gland can also lead to hair loss and other hair issues.
The hair loss a person experiences when the gland is overactive is slightly different from the hair loss experienced when the gland is underactive. Hyperthyroidism can lead to diffuse thinning of the hair, all over the surface of the scalp. Since the hair loss is all over, treatments such as a hairtransplant aren’t usually effective for patients with thyroid problems. Hypothyroidism can cause hair loss on all areas of the body, not just on the scalp.
Treating Thyroid Troubles
While hair restoration surgery isn’t usually the answer for women experiencing hairloss due to thyroid concerns, the good news is that for the most part, the hair loss usually resolves and growth returns once the thyroid is properly treated.
Treatment varies based on the problem. Antithyroid drugs are often used to treat an overactive gland. Usually, people need to take the medication for an extended period of time for the best results. The medicine helps the gland function normally, but there is a chance that patient will relapse after the treatment is over.
Radioactive iodine can also treat hyperthyroidism. The trade off is that it destroys the gland, meaning that patients need to treat hypothyroidism for the rest of their lives. An underactive gland is commonly treated using a synthetic form of thyroid hormone. The hormone replacement often provides quick results, but needs to be continued for the rest of a patient’s life.
Since there are so many different causes of hair loss, finding out what is behind your hair problems is an important first step in developing a treatment plan. Dr. Kyle Choe is a hair restoration specialist in Virginia Beach who can help you pinpoint the cause of your hair loss and determine which treatment best suits you. To learn more about hair loss and your options, call (757) 389-5850 today for a consultation.